Abrolhos coral is found nowhere else in the world, but WA in high demand for aquariums

Looking out into the water while working on his family’s crayfish fishing boat, Andrew Basile noticed how quickly damaged corals were recovering on the Abrolhos Islands off the west coast of Australia .

“You’d see where a pot was on the reef and there were a few scratches and marks…then you’d come back for the next lobster season and everything would be nice and clean and neat, and you’d think, ‘Hmmm,'” he said. he says.

A man and a woman smile at the camera while traveling on a boat.
Andrew and Tracey Basile have spent the last decade perfecting the art of coral farming.(Provided: Andrew Basil)

An idea began to form and 10 years ago it became reality when Andrew and his wife, Tracey, obtained a license to take pieces of coral from the wild in Abrolhos and plant them as broodstock in an area that is now their coral farm.

Coral held in a gloved hand.
Acropora coral grown by Abrolhos.(ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt: Chris Lewis)

The Basils sell tens of thousands of pieces of coral to the aquarium trade in Australia and overseas each year.

It can take seven years for coral to grow to a salable size, but Tracey said the continued high demand from the aquarium market has been a pleasant surprise.

“The really good [aquarium] hobbyists like to have marine tanks. It’s like a chemical experiment,” she said.

“There are thousands of people in Australia who love having aquariums in their homes and have such a passion that they will spend a lot of money to be able to have them.

An aerial of a small island with several pontoons.
Basil Island is part of the southern group of the Abrolhos Islands.(ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt: Chris Lewis)

Unique species to Abrolhos

The Basils are allowed to grow 90 different types of coral, but they mainly focus on six varieties.

“The Abrolhos have a few species that are not found anywhere else, the purple acropora and the abrolhosensis, so they are highly sought after,” Andrew said.

“They are doing very well in the market…we have a lot of beautiful blues and purples that are selling well and they are quite popular as well.

The Basils juggle their crayfish and aquaculture business in Abrolhos with a tile business on the mainland in Geraldton.

It’s a family affair. Their children help in the coral trade and their daughter Onika also works with Andrew on the chalk boat.

A woman stands on a boat holding two crays towards the camera
Onika Basile at work on the family crayfish.(Provided: Onika Basil)

Freight challenges for businesses

When a coral order arrives, everyone is on deck.

Small pieces are cut from broodstock, glued onto a fragment, carefully transported to holding tanks in Geraldton, and then shipped.

Tracey said reliable and fast air freight is one of today’s biggest challenges.

“So it has to come from the Abrolhos to Geraldton, from Geraldton to Perth, then from Perth to the rest of Australia or the world, and it has to be done in time before the coral dies.”

Challenges aside, a punt 10 years ago to diversify their crawfish business is paying off.

Abrolhos’ crystal clear water coral lives in aquariums around the world, which the Basils say is worth the effort

Coral in a gloved hand in front of a long table.
Abrolhos acropora coral fresh from the water.(ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt: Chris Lewis)

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